Liverpool’s biggest desire may only be achievable if they swallow their pride and falter in the competition that has seen them stay relevant among the Premier League’s big boys during their league title drought.
Of course, it’s not in the DNA of Jurgen Klopp nor the football club he manages to try anything other than an all-out assault on European success – but this will likely prove to their detriment.
Unless Red Star pull off the upset of all upsets on the final day against Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool will be staying in some form of continental competition this season, but only one of them will hinder the domestic dreams that the club has been repressing for nearly three decades.
True, Klopp and co increased their squad depth significantly in the summer. And yes, in theory, an aim to win both trophies should be adopted, but Klopp has a chance to topple the best side the Premier League has ever seen and he can’t do it while fighting on multiple fronts.
Their win against Bournemouth has people putting them in the title-calibre bracket again, and they’re right to do so.
But a manager is called a manager for a reason. He has to manage a season, he has to manage expectations and he has to manage preparation.
If Liverpool’s first team fall into that Tuesday/Saturday or Wednesday/Sunday trap that so many in the past have, they simply don’t have the focus, the depth nor the indifference to European success that so many show when a title run-in starts to loom.
Their character may actually be their downfall. There probably isn’t a more likeable group in terms of work ethic in the division, but an away tie to Real Madrid or Barcelona on a Tuesday will see even the top pros take it slightly easier on a wet evening kick-off in Wolverhampton.
This is the key to the balancing act, and if Klopp chooses to truly bring Liverpool into a new era, he has to establish them at home – and as more than a novelty act on the continent that constantly fall short in domestic affairs.
To do that, he must reforge their identity. But that may not go down well with a fanbase who recount Istanbul at every given opportunity. And that’s their right. But it’s from a different age thirteen years later.
There’s nobody confident of a midfield three containing James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum providing ammunition for Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri to bang in goals against weaker sides.
And that’s the best case scenario.
Should Klopp try to overload his players across multiple competitions, they’ll ultimately fall short in all of them. This is the most important league juncture Liverpool have been at in some time.
Europa League fixtures can see them field their weaker players and still pick up victories – if they even wanted that accolade. Manchester City will undoubtedly be affected by their fixture congestion coming up and Liverpool need to be in pole position to take advantage.
But in order for them to do that, the players, manager and fans must swallow the most bitter of pills and accept that Champions League success can wait until they’ve gotten an aging monkey off their backs.